I am not an ophthalmologist and not very familiar with color cognitive biases or blindnesses, so there might be a false premise in the following question or in possible discussions.
I also don't ask the following question only about partially color blind people but about general audience. For example, I assume that Yellow text on White background might be problematic for everyone (besides the totally color blind, maybe).

I would define a "minimal color palette" as any color combination which is not merely Black and White and will have no more than three colors.
So, for example, a minimal color palette might be one of these:

  • Black, White, Gray
  • Black, White, Red
  • Black White, Green
  • Black, White, Blue
  • Red, Green, Blue
  • Black, White, Yellow
  • Red, Green, Yellow
  • Green, Blue, Yellow
  • Yellow, Black, Red
  • and countless other combinations (other colors not mentioned here could also be used)

Especially in regards to website development, what is the minimal color palette that as long as we stick to it, then in general, there won't be any color contrast problems whatsoever?

  • 1
    Red/Green and Blue/Yellow combinations are problematic for the color blind. You should probably read-up on color blindness a bit: nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/…
    – Scott
    May 10, 2023 at 22:52
  • Contrast and readability depend on more factors than just color. What's the display like? What are the conditions like of someone viewing it? What font is used and at what thickness? And so on. This question isn't very helpful as it lacks context necessary to determine usable colors May 11, 2023 at 18:39
  • @ZachSaucier I fully agree that contrast or readability depends on more, but specifically about color, I just want to know what is the safest color combination right after Black, White and Gray, or in other words what is the safest five colors palette (Black, White, Gray, X and Y), if indeed there is one. Should I ask a new question or edit this question?
    – somo
    May 11, 2023 at 21:49
  • Either is fine but if you ask a new one I'd delete this one May 12, 2023 at 14:17
  • @ZachSaucier done graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/161053/…
    – somo
    May 12, 2023 at 16:16

2 Answers 2


Let me explore a bit some ideas about color palettes.

1. One.

You can not have just 1 color when you design a visual element, because, of course, you need a difference in contrast so we can perceive text or any image for that matter.

2. One but two

One color palette could also be thought of as giving a kid the choice of what crayon to use. He can choose just 1, but you also have the white of the paper as the default canvas.

So you can also a palette of 1 color that could not be black. You can have a dark blue for texts and your logo and buttons.

3. One but many

If you control the pressure of your crayon you will find that you can have different tones of the color you choose.

We can have what is called a monochromatic palette. This opens the door to how we can dissect a color solid.

Here is one HSV solid. A cone with a chromatic circle at the top, black on the bottom, and a gradient to the center.

I marked a cross-section of 1 magenta hue. Now you have at your disposal:

  • White
  • The color you choose
  • A gradient of colors from white to your color.
  • White and black, and all the grays
  • Gradients from the saturated magenta to white, saturated magenta black, and saturated magenta to any gray.

enter image description here

4. Two as two

So, we have established that we need at least two colors. That is the minimum and it is perfectly fine. You can have a business card on just 1 ink on white or on colored paper, or a website with one color and white or a pastel color for example.

5. Three

There are many principles to explore regarding color.

One is that you can have 3 colors in different proportions. That is called a 60-30-10 meaning

  • 60% one main distinctive color
  • 30% one secondary color
  • 10% one accent color

In some cases that could include the background color, let's say white, or a pastel creamy color. Or you can think about this besides white, which will give you a 4 color palette, or 5 if you include black.

Or many, if you include gradients between the unsaturated colors to your chosen colors.

But a website that wanted to have a minimalistic approach, could only use black or white, or black and white and one additional color.

Nothing stops you from using only black and white.

I am not addressing the "contrast problems" that is an entire new question.

  • Perhaps I should ask "What is the minimal safest color palette (excluding Black, White and Gray).
    – somo
    May 11, 2023 at 1:38
  • @somo depending on the gray you use, there are a lot of potential contrast issues May 11, 2023 at 18:37
  • I strongly edited my answer, so you can have some ideas to play with.
    – Rafael
    May 13, 2023 at 15:15

While the question sounds innocent it is not. Problem is there is no answer to the question about cognitive biases.

We can answer the question about contrast with some qualitative info. But that does not answer which one of the color combinations is best! since the situation is very multivariate. Therefore also guaranteeing no problems whatsoever is not achievable.

You can check standard contrast ratios with tools like:

Fact is most color combinations are entirely plausible, you can use the tools to check for contrast, but most color combinations are usually very easy. But it really depends on particulars. For example some oranges are fine with black some other oranges are not.

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